JumpStart Theatre schools, like most educational theatre programs this year, have been struggling to find ways to make theatre happen and maintain student engagement. It was nearly impossible to identify a solution that worked for every school in the program, considering the 39 schools are scattered across the country with varying recommendations on social distancing.
The Educational Theatre Foundation staff collected feedback via survey and determined that while in person professional development opportunities were limited, almost all respondents were willing to attend a virtual event. JumpStart Theatre partner, iTheatrics, was happy to answer the call and put together an agenda to help teachers find options for producing theatre in a virtual world. “We have got to keep the arts alive,” iTheatrics CEO/Founder, Tim McDonald, insisted. “We need the arts. We need it now to keep kids focused and to keep their brains engaged in a creative way. The arts nurture everybody
Fifty-seven participants from six different regions joined the iTheatrics team on a weeknight in November and learned techniques for leading warm-ups and icebreakers on a virtual platform, boosting the visual elements of an online performance, and breathing/projection exercises. “You might have a limited dance area, but that’s okay,” instructor Jiana Odland assured, “Within the boundaries of these little Zoom boxes, you can still dance, you can still sing. Yes, it’s a modified version, but it’s still a performance.”
Additionally, practical tips for issues teachers of all subjects are struggling with were demonstrated, such as how to get students to turn on their cameras and actively participate in a lesson. Just like all of the JumpStart Theatre bootcamps from prior years, there was dancing, singing, laughter and a chance to share and support each other. Marty Johnson,
iTheatrics Director of Education, stated, “Our job is to let you know that whatever you are doing right now is perfect. If you are doing everything under the sun, amazing! If you haven’t started yet because you haven’t figured out how, that’s okay too. We are here to support you no matter what level that ends up being for you and your students.”
“This makes my heart happy that you are playing like you want your kids to play,” Cindy Ripley, iTheatrics Educational Consultant, shared, after the teachers enthusiastically tackled a vocal exercise. “Some of you have been at the computer for 10 hours today and you’re still having fun and you’ve got that in your spirit so you’ve got no choice but to pass that on.”
Another virtual bootcamp will follow next month to further dive into the logistics of putting together an online production. Looking for advice to help you produce your own remote performance? Take a look at the Remote Performance Guide iTheatrics distributed to the JumpStart Theatre teachers. Would you like to help theatre happen this year? Consider a donation to the Educational Theatre Foundation.